Lesson Extenders to Save the Day (or lesson)

If you’re like me, sometimes the timing of a lesson goes completely wrong. 

There have been moments in my classroom where a lesson went really well…and then…it ended early.  There have been times in my classroom when a lesson went completely wrong…and NEEDED to end early.  There have even been fire drills, assemblies, or periods of time after state assessments, when the classroom had “down time” – otherwise known as “let’s-act-crazy-time” in the mind of a middle schooler.  Sometimes the unplanned-for-minutes can be filled with homework or reading an independent novel, but more often than not, I found myself playing an educational game with my students. 

Recently, I compiled some of my students’ favorite games into a single resource.  I call it my ‘Fun in Five’ pack and it’s perfect for pulling out and occupying students’ minds when a lesson ends early and soaking up every instructional minute with students.

You can find it here.

They work great in my middle school classroom because they’re all simple.


They don’t require any prep.


They cross multiple disciplines.


Some even encourage team work and cooperation.

Oh, and the best part is that they’re FREE for you! 

If you’re feeling extra crafty, you can even compile them all together into a set of lesson extenders.  I just copied the activities on colored paper and then glued each activity onto a piece of colorful scrapbook paper.

school games, learning game, classroom fun, lesson extensions

Then, I put them through a laminator.

classroom fun, learning games

 Finally, I punched a hole in each corner and used a clasp to hold them all together.

lesson extenders, fun in five, classrom games, educational games
They’re perfect to hang on my white board and I’ve even left them behind for a substitute.  Oh, and if your observation lesson ends a little early, you can always use one of these lesson extenders and show off how prepared and smart you are J. 


I hope you find them as useful as I have.  There is one warning though, the Paper Airplane Challenge lesson extender is a huge hit!  Be prepared to get a lot of requests for that one!

Thanks for stopping by!
Brain Waves Instruction



Simple Ways to Solve Common Classroom Problems

Did you know that studies show that teachers make over 1,500 decisions a day?  That's more than 4 educational decisions every minute!  No wonder we're so tired!  I'm always trying to implement tips and tricks to make all the decisions I make and all the things I have to do to manage my classroom much, much easier.  In fact, I have a few simple ideas about how to turn common classroom problems into total non-issues in the classroom.  (As a disclaimer none of them are rocket science and none of them have a solution for how teachers can use the bathroom anytime they need to, but I'm working on it!)

school start, beginning of the school year, setting up the classroom

Problem:  Students without pens or pencils.  
How many times have you started your class only to find out that some of your students don't have a pen or pencil?  It's super frustrating and stops the lesson in its tracks.  There was a time when I would send my students back out to their lockers for a pencil, lend them one of mine, or have them borrow from a friend.  Not any more.

Solution: A box of 144 golf pencils.  
I stick a bunch in a cup in the back of the classroom and encourage my pencil-less students to grab a pencil and get to work.  That box of pencils may just be the best school supply I purchase every year!

students without pencils, common classroom problems

Problem:  The tedious task of making and changing seating charts.  
When I first started teaching I agonized over seating charts.  I felt that if I could get the perfect arrangement of students everything else would fall into place.  I'd spend a good amount of time writing out seating charts or designing them in my grading system.  Pretty soon it became a time consuming process.

Solution:  Post-it notes.  
Now, I just use thin post-it notes.  I sketch my desk arrangement on a piece of white paper and then write my students' names on thin post-it notes.  Then, I stick a post-it note at each desk on the paper and slide the whole seating chart into a clear page protector.  Since I teach multiple classes, each class has a different post-it note color, and I store all the seating charts in a binder at the front of the room.  My favorite part about this system is that I can change seats on the fly.  If I suddenly want Joey at the front of the room it's as easy as moving the post-it note.

seating chart ideas, seating charts, solve classroom problems


Problem:  Handing Back Student Work.  
Handing back papers always seemed like such a waste of instructional time to me.  I used to walk around the classroom, weave between desks, and hand back student work one paper at a time.  All the while I could have been teaching.

Solution:  Student Mailboxes.  
Then, I decided to take a cue from elementary classrooms and designate mailboxes for my middle school students.  I bought a few cardboard paper organizers, labeled each with students' names, and designated a classroom job as 'Homework Manager'.  Each time I finished grading papers I put them into a single basket.  Then, it was the Homework Manager's job to put each classmate's papers into the mailboxes.  Super easy and super fun to have all the hand-back-paper time back!

classroom mailboxes, handing back papers

Problem:  The missing bathroom pass.  
As much as I'd like to keep students in my classroom for every single instructional minute, sometimes nature calls and they need to take a break.  Over the years I used various systems for coordinating bathroom breaks including paper passes and cute cardboard tags.  But after I got sick of tracking down the little passes and filling out paper passes, I wised up and solved the bathroom pass problem.

Solution:  A big, simple bathroom pass.  
Now, I use a big wooden letter that I picked up at Michael's.  I painted it and added a string.  I love how it is big enough for students to keep track of and durable enough to last the entire school year.  An added bonus is that I can easily wash and sanitize the letter, too.  (By the way, I just use the initial of my last name for the pass letter.)

Bathroom Passes, wooden letter pass

Problem:  Creating Bulletin Boards.  
To be honest, when I dreamed of being a teacher I thought getting to create and design bulletin boards was a perk of the job.  Now that I'm hundreds of bulletin boards into my career, I realize that creating a bulletin board can be a time-consuming process.  Getting a bulletin board to look presentable can take away valuable planning time, so I went in search of a very simple way to display student work throughout the year.

Solution:  A clothesline.  
For years I've had a huge clothesline spanning the width of my classroom.  I love it!  Then, one day I realized I could apply the same ease of a clothesline to a bulletin board.  I just added some fun wrapping paper to the back of the board, put up a paper border, and strung up colorful ribbon onto the bulletin board.  Along the ribbon I added clothespins.  Now, changing and updating the bulletin board is as easy as clipping new student work along the bulletin board clothesline.  It's super easy and totally does the job!

Bulletin Board Idea, Classroom Clothesline

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With each of these tips, now I only have to make 1,495 decisions a day!  Actually, my favorite part of all these ideas is that each give me more time to work on creating fun and engaging lessons for my students.  Recently, I just put together this resource filled with SIX WEEKS of instruction for students at the beginning of the school year.  It has everything I'll need to start off the year - 1st Day of School Activities, Classroom Management Resources, and 4 ELA Units.  You can check it out here

What is something you do in your classroom to make life easier? I'm always in search of more time-saving ideas!

Thanks for stopping by!
Brain Waves Instruction

P.S.  I recently joined Facebook (yes, I've been living under a rock) and established a page for Brain Waves Instruction.  I plan to post updates on products, special deals, and links to great resources for educators.  If you're in the mood to 'like' another page, I'd absolutely love to be liked by you!

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